Tag Archives: literature

The Orange Prize longlist: my top 5 contenders

7 Mar

The book world is psyched right now as the literary award season is finally rolling into town. First up on the glittering list of accolades is the Orange Prize, the UK’s prestigious award for fiction written by female authors. With the longlist released tomorrow I thought I’d give you my two-penny worth, so here are my top 5 reads that I believe to be well deserving of a place on the longlist:

 

The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern, review, book review, author, Orange Prize

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Fin-de-siecle wizardry, inventive storytelling and one of the best love scenes you’ll ever read. Full (and extremely excitable) review here.

 

 

 

The Land of Decoration by Grace McCleen

McCleen spins her experience of childhood in a fundamental religion to create a quirky and surprisingly dark tale of ten-year-old Judith and her newfound miracle-making powers. My review for Stylist magazine is coming soon…


 

 

The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan (out end of March)

I’m reading this right now and I am hooked. 22-year-old Grace is on trial for her life. We know she survived a shipwreck and 3 weeks at sea… but we don’t know how

 

 

 

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

Literary fiction at its absolute best. Ivey takes inspiration from a Russian fairytale to tell the story of Jack and Mabel, a childless couple in 1920s Alaska who make a little girl out of snow. Full review here.

 

 

 

22 Britannia Road by Amanda Hodgkinson

Hodgkinson’s post-war page-turner follows a Polish couple and their young son as they adjust to a new life in England. 8-year-old Aurek steals the show in this heartbreaking tale of wartime secrets and survival. Review here.

 

 

What would be your top 5? Let me know!

Judging a boy by his face: Wonder by RJ Palacio

5 Mar

Wonder by RJ Palacio, author, review, writer, American, debut, 2012, child, narrator, moralWhen I first heard about this book, my initial and extremely articulate thought was ‘meh’. It’s not that I’m a horrible person, it’s just I felt like this kind of thing (a crossover novel with a child narrator carrying a big moral message) was all a little bit Curious Tale of the Dog in the Night-Time – ish. Which isn’t to say I didn’t love that book – I did – but hey, no one likes a bandwagon jumper.

That said, it took me just a few pages of reading time before I was caught hook, line and sinker by the story of the insanely brave ‘little dude’ Auggie Pullman, the ten-year-old with a facial disfigurement who wins over everyone he meets. When home-schooled Auggie’s mum thinks it’s time for him to go to school, he’s terrified at the thought of everyone staring at him. Having lived a life of second-glances and cruel playground taunts, the thought of pacing the mean streets of a middle school are a little overwhelming to say the least. But Auggie has a huge strength of character that will get him through whatever life throws at him. Somehow, he always comes out smiling. Cue trailer:


A simple tale of the world as witnessed by an outsider, Wonder is narrated by Auggie and some other children in the novel, including his two new friends, his teenage sister, and her boyfriend. This technique offers a wider angle on events, but Auggie’s chapters are by far the most captivating. If you’ve managed to make it half-way through without blubbing, you have a heart of stone. It’s almost as if Palacio was going through a check-list of guaranteed tear-jerkers (Loss of a close relative, check. Death of family pet, check. Overall feeling of frustration at the existence of some particularly horrible people in the world, CHECK). And I have to say, it occasionally teeters into an All-American cheese fest (I think there’s a slow clap moment at the end plus a dubious use of Christina Aguilera lyrics, for example). But, I really enjoyed it. I read it in one, tear-drenched sitting and felt simultaneously depressed and uplifted all at once. Uplifted, because of aforementioned slow clap. Depressed, because I’ve never had a book reveal so plainly how much I have to learn from a fictional ten-year-old.

My one comment is that I  would have liked to have had a section of the story narrated by Julian, the two-faced teacher suck-up who becomes Auggie’s enemy. As it is, he remains kind of one-dimensional, serving a bit of a pantomime villain function in the plot. But hey, this is a novel primarily for kids after all, and all the adults reading will surely know (/hope) that Julian is bound to have problems in later life.

So yes, if you’re a fan of Curious Tale, or if you’re looking for something a little simpler but just as powerful as a literary heavyweight, this debut is well worth a read. I’d put money on it becoming a big crossover success.

In the meantime, I’m curious to hear what you think about child narrators… are they insightful, or irritating? Which books do it best? Let me know!

Your next book club read: The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

22 Feb

I’ve been wanting to share this book with you ever since I read it a few weeks back. I cried, I swooned, I got unfathomably jealous of the author’s beautiful way with words… Here’s my review that appeared in today’s Stylist magazine. If I don’t manage to convince you, click here to read Savidge Reads’ excellent review. This is my favourite book of 2012 thus far…

The Snow Child Eowyn Ivey

WANTED: Cool book podcasts…

6 Feb

Doing the washing up the other day (yawnnnn) I decided I fancied a bit of intellectual stimulation to accompany my cleaning, so I got on Google and tried to find a decent book podcast. I’m not really fussy in terms of content, an author interview, reviews, random lists.. I’m easily pleased. But what I don’t like is the fact that most book podcasts seem to be laced with tranquillisers. I love Mariella Frostrup, ain’t no one know a book like that lady, but can’t help but be put off by her BBC-tuned pronunciations and her voice, as soft and velvety as a Werthers Original munching grandma’s. Sorry Mariella.

I know there are cool book people out there (you subscribe to my blog, right?!), so I’m asking – what podcasts do you rate? Any recommendations?

My personal fave, one that stands out head and shoulders above the rest, is the Bookslam podcast. Bookslam is London’s coolest literary night, a big soiree of books, poets, actors and live music, put together with plenty of gin and not a whiff of pretentiousness about it. I am also kind of obsessed with it ever since I went to a session last year and met David Nicholls… aherm…

Ahhh yes.

Coming back to the real world, Bookslam is ace, and the podcast equally so. Go and listen to it now.

NO wait – first, tell me your fave book podcast.. please.. I have so much washing up to do it’s UNREAL.

Sunday Inspiration: poetry ‘vandal’ Robert Montgomery gets first solo show in Hoxton

5 Feb

A new exhibition opened at the KK Outlet in Hoxton this week, showcasing the work of poet ‘vandal’ Robert Montgomery. After clocking an article in the Telegraph, I was blown away by some of Montgomery’s pieces. Simultaneously famous and infamous for hijacking ad space in London, the artist creates striking, inspirational billboards that tackle topics like Capitalism, the Occupy movement and the concept of freedom in the city. Part poetry, part politics – think of him as Banksy with a typepad instead of paintbrush.

Montgomery describes his work as ‘post-situationist’, referring to an artistic movement that liked to capture the audience’s attention in unexpected ways within the public realm. Sensationalists famously saw poetry as an agent for political changed and contributed to the 1968 riots by scrawling poems on the walls of the Sorbonne. It’s a technique that very much echoes with his own – a strong supporter of the Occupy movement, one of his billboards on Old Street talks of ‘100 black flags of anarchists held up at night 100 miles apart.’

Today, Montgomery and his team regularly get met with hugs from impressed bystanders. They famously covered some of Cameron’s campaign posters without getting busted, and his work has recently been spotted on the sides of trucks in Istanbul, on fire in the streets of Paris and lighting up the Brooklyn sky at night.

What really strikes me is the way Montgomery highlights how impacting words can still be. In an age where images are everything and we’ve become complete slaves to the ‘a picture tells a thousands words’ adage, his ad highjacking technique is overwhelmingly simple but still seriously punch packing.

“I WANT THE WORDS TO APPEAR ALMOST LIKE STATEMENTS FROM THE COLLECTIVE UNCONSCIOUS.” – Robert Montgomery

What do you think – have you seen any of Montgomery’s work in situ? Would you be impressed or underwhelmed?

These images are all borrowed from The Independent’s gallery – click here to see all the images.